Members of the Kentucky Tobacco Research Board are considering potential future uses for burley and dark leaf tobacco grown in the bluegrass state.
Discussion at Monday’s meeting addressed proposed FDA regulation of nicotine levels in tobacco products.
The Kentucky Tobacco Research and Development Center is reviewing ways of lowering nicotine levels in cigarettes. The board discussion also covered heat-not-burn tobacco products.
University of Kentucky Professor Emeritus in plant soil sciences, George Wagner fielded questions on this tobacco delivery system.
“Some people think that it’s the future because of that lower temperature, but yet the continued presence of some tobacco in the device as opposed to e-cigarettes,” said Wagner.
Although not in wide use in the United States, Wagner says such heat-not-burn cigarette devices comprise about 20% of the consumer market in Japan.
With this technology, a small amount of tobacco is warmed in an oral device, but not lit. Tobacco Research Board member Hoppy Henton says more of an effort to encourage its use in the U.S. would affect tobacco production.
“The problem for traditional tobacco producers in the Carolinas, Kentucky, and Tennessee is that they don’t need very much tobacco to fit into the system,” Henton noted.
Henton, a former USDA official, says this would mean producing tobacco in Kentucky on fewer farms and fewer acres. He says the effort may turn to producing a specialized tobacco product.
Center Tobacco Research Specialist Ann Jack says lowering nicotine content in cigarettes may reduce addiction, but it wouldn't eliminate adverse health effects of smoking.
“I think the FDA’S reasoning is by lowering nicotine to non-addictive levels, people would smoke less,” said Jack. “I don’t think lowering nicotine per se would affect the intake of the other harmful compounds.”
Jack says it’s very difficult to say when or if all the FDA regulations will be enacted. As she puts it, it’s a completely unknown quantity. Jack says sometimes such regs are proposed, but don’t gain final approval.